Orioles waiting instead of trading

The Baltimore Sun

Something should have happened by now, or so you might think after several months of speculation about the great Orioles rebuilding project that was supposed to begin this month.

Club president Andy MacPhail still might get something done before the end of November, but his plan to remake the roster has been stalled temporarily by circumstances beyond his control - most notably the decision by the Florida Marlins to make third baseman Miguel Cabrera available for a possible blockbuster trade.

This isn't complicated. Putting Cabrera on the market has put the Orioles' plan to deal Miguel Tejada on ice because the big-market teams with the wherewithal to acquire Tejada are going to make their best play for Cabrera first.

The Marlins' 24-year-old third baseman might be the most coveted position player this side of Alex Rodriguez, so it's understandable that he would be higher on every offseason wish list than Tejada, who is much deeper into his career and most likely will have to move to third base to be the right fit for a contending team.

Cabrera is one of those players who can freeze the market until his situation is resolved, which could keep the Orioles in limbo through the winter meetings, which begin Dec. 3 in Nashville, Tenn.

It's all about the dominoes this time of year, and it was the Orioles' misfortune that the first two were superstar-caliber third basemen. Rodriguez entered the free-agent market briefly before agreeing to return to the New York Yankees, a decision that also might have been affected by the unexpected availability of Cabrera.

Because there is more than one team reportedly bidding on Cabrera, there still figures to be solid interest in Tejada after everything shakes out. It just might take awhile to get him onto the front burner.

MacPhail has said he hopes to complete a series of deals to fill the Orioles' long-term needs in a variety of areas, but that would be a complex undertaking under the most favorable conditions. It is difficult enough to make one major deal, especially with most of your prospective trading partners in a holding pattern.

Nevertheless, he remains upbeat about the potential for an extreme Orioles makeover.

"Nothing has really changed as far as what our approach it going to be," MacPhail said. "Nothing has occurred that reduces our options trying to get something done."

Not even, apparently, the news Thursday that the Los Angeles Angels spent $90 million to sign free-agent center fielder Torii Hunter to a five-year contract.

The Angels seem to pop up in every round of Tejada rumors. They were one of the teams that made a big play for him in July 2006, and they figure to make another substantial bid if they fall short on Cabrera.

That actually seems more likely in the aftermath of the Hunter signing because the Los Angeles Dodgers were hot after Hunter and now face mounting pressure to upgrade their roster for new manager Joe Torre.

When the Angels acquired veteran pitcher Jon Garland from the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Orlando Cabrera on Monday, it was widely viewed as a deal to free up one of their other young starting pitchers to include in a future trade for an impact hitter.

Though Hunter fits that description, the Angels still are believed to be pursuing Miguel Cabrera and, failing that, might fall back to Tejada. The Orioles could end up with a good young pitcher and at least one major league-cusp position player in return, not to mention saving the $24 million Tejada is guaranteed over the next two seasons.

The Orioles could get even greater value for ace left-hander Erik Bedard if they conclude that they will not be able to re-sign him before he becomes a free agent in two years, but it seems unlikely MacPhail will be ready to make a decision on Bedard until he has a better idea of what he can accomplish overall.

For that, he might have to wait until he gets to Nashville, though he wouldn't entirely rule out the possibility of something happening over the next several days.

"When clubs wait this long, they usually wait to play their hand out at the winter meetings," MacPhail said, "but something could happen sooner if a club feels it's a deal that makes sense."


Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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